HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

December 17, 2007

Fact or fiction: Mitchell report is bad for baseball

By Jesse Menden

The following is a pair of questions about some recent sports topics.

The George Mitchell report will harm the status of Major League Baseball.

Fiction. The popularity of baseball is at an all-time high. If this report does hurt baseball, which it won’t, it will not be very noticeable.

The steroids issue has been with us for a few years now, and the public is largely desensitized and tired of hearing about the whole thing. They just want three hours of American entertainment without the controversy. Having said that, the public did deserve to know the extent of the report.

If there is any harm to the current status of the league, it will be pointed at the handful of active players who were on that list. But that will not be that big of a deal.

After the release of the book “Game of Shadows,” it became evident that Barry Bonds was guilty of juicing, and the worst he had to face were signs made by fans and some public ridicule. Expect the players that were named in Mitchell’s report to get that same type of treatment.

The harm from this report will be in the legacy of the players that were caught and the Steriod Era of baseball, but it won’t affect Major League Baseball’s bottom line.

Teams set all kinds of attendance records this season, even though fans were well aware that juicing was a part of baseball culture just a few years ago.

Fans can be encouraged to know that the league is working at cleaning up the game as much as possible. While there is still no fail-safe test for Human Growth Hormone, it is reasonable to think that most players are now clean.

Baseball will be chastised in history books for basically ignoring the large elephant standing in the middle of the room, but baseball’s future looks as bright as ever.

The Minnesota Wild are among the elite teams in the Western Conference.

Fiction. What happened to the hard-working, defensive-minded Wild teams of the past? It seems those days are long gone.

In the past, the Wild did a lot with very little talent. Now, they seem to be doing very little with a lot of talent.

After starting the season 7-0-1 and looking nearly invincible, the Wild have recently been looking like they don’t even belong in playoff conversations, much less mention among the elite teams of the Western Conference.

In the past few weeks, the Wild have been blown out by Columbus at home, destroyed by Detroit, and embarrassed by San Jose.

Sure, injuries have played a part in the Wild’s struggles, but there was a time in this organization’s history when they won a lot of games with players that belonged in the minor leagues.

The problem with this team is its inconsistency. When the Wild have been successful in the past, it has been the result of their defense. This season, the defense has been too up-and-down to rely on. The Wild should not be regarded as a defensive team anymore, even though they have allowed the fourth-fewest goals in the conference.

The offense is also inconsistent. The league seems to be slowly transitioning back to the days before the lockout.

The game is getting more physical again, and more Wild forwards need to be willing to get in the corner or in front of the net and get dirty. That is why Adam Voros was so successful with Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik on the top line – he could mix it up a little with his physical nature.

Some of the blame for the inconsistency has to be pinned on head coach Jacques Lemaire, but not much. He has been calling out some of his offensive players to work harder, and has been putting them through tough practices lately in hopes of instilling that work ethic the Wild is known for and their fans demand. Ultimately, the players need to step up.

Overall, the Wild need to be more defensively sound on defense and physical on offense to reach that consistency and reassert themselves into the West powerhouses.

The bright side to this story is that despite their struggles, the Wild are still in third place in the Northwest Division, and would make the playoffs if the season ended now.